I am excited to announce that I have just completed a new book about my experiences, experiments, failures, and reflections during pandemic distance learning. While publishing is still a few months out, I will be sharing snippets of the book here. Below is the first of many:
From "Rule #2: Streamline Your Tech"
"Perhaps a quote by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke that was read at my wedding captures this concept best: 'Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.' While Rilke’s words relate to love between two individuals, the teacher in me also interprets this quote to embody a larger, more transcendent context where Rilke is referring to a relationship between any two living or non living things. In the context of Rule #2, I hear Rilke calling us, as educators, to embrace our dependence on technology during distance learning, by placing it at a distance, simplifying its use, and once we do that, we can see its purpose clearly. That clarity can then surface beautiful spaces where we can challenge our students in purposeful ways. Specifically, while many of my colleagues were creating new websites, attending Zoom workshops, and consuming themselves with learning a new way of teaching' in preparation for distance learning, I asked myself the following question: 'If I had to teach online tomorrow, what tools in my mission statement am I the most comfortable with and are the most device agnostic?' By asking myself this question, I knew I would create a system that, although on the surface would look basic, would be something that I would feel very comfortable implementing during a stressful time, would leave room for the pedagogical musings needed to maximize learning."
I was honored to give a presentation yesterday to colleagues in Utah on strategies to promote engagement in the sciences when teaching in a 100% distance learning setting.
Rather than share an exhaustive list og best practices (which are constantly evolving), I decided to give participants a snap shot of my current thinking on distance learning science pedagogy which is heavily informed by constant reflective practice.
Click here for a link to a PDF of the presentation which features my top four current strategies. I am sure these will change...but sharing reflection and iteration, I feel, is very powerful. At least for me. And it's my blog. :)
Class: Freshman Biology
Topic: The Cell Cycle
1. Engage (Hero is Called to Adventure)
While entering the Zoom room this video was played on loop. Students then worked to solve this medical case study in randomized Zoom breakout rooms. (correct diagnosis = pancreatic cancer). The goal if this phase was to engage students in the process of cell division and create an information gap about cell division specifics that could be closed later in the learning cycle.
2. Explore (Hero is Challenged)
Solution to case study was revealed using this video. Working individually, with Zoom room open for individual help as needed, students then worked through this POGIL activity on the Cell Cycle recording answers here. The goal of this phase was to provide specifics about cell division to add content and context to the case study. Slowly filling in the information gap.
3. Explain (Hero Meets the Mentor)
Solutions to POGIL activity are provided here. Students engage in informal discussion in randomized Zoom breakout rooms followed by responsive classroom discussion about correct and incorrect answers are provided via whole-class Zoom. The goal of this phase is to "trick" students into engaging in direct instruction guided by their desire to fill the information gap.
4. Extend (Hero is Transformed)
Students are placed into randomized Zoom breakout rooms and instructed to have a conversation based on this prompt without looking online for solutions: "Cancer of the heart tissue is very rare. Why do you think this is?" After returning to whole-class Zoom, this video is pushed out to students in chat to close the new information gap.
5. Evaluate (Hero Returns Home to be Judged)
Students are challenged to create a presentation about a cancer of their choice. The presentation must include reference to, and diagrams of the cell cycle, specifically tumor suppressor and/or oncogene mutations that contribute. Students are also challenged to identify gaps in current treatment and propose their own innovative treatment. The goal of this phase is to force reflection on the content revealed in the learning cycle and promote inductive reasoning about cancer treatment.
Continuing with my goal of bringing more SUSTAINABLE and ACCESSIBLE hands-on labs to the distance learning setting, below is another summary of the activity that was used to follow up the one described here. I hope you find it useful in your own planning for those of you that are still 100% distance.
Step 1: Play this video for students to watch individually. Video is edited to strategically withhold the ending.
Step 2: Challenge students to complete the experimental setup and post videos of conclusions on the Padlet board here. See screenshot of portion of Padlet board below. Students were given the below instructions:
When you are ready, prop your camera over the dish (with help from a family member or holding with your other hand) record a video of you completing the experiment shown in the above video. Note: if you want to do it more than once, you need to rinse all soap out and start over.
Step 3: Students viewed and commented on one another's work.
Step 4: Students hypothesized, in Zoom breakouts: Why, on a molecular level, the soap-water combination forces the pepper to the side of the dish.
Step 5: Students then repeated the above steps with this similar video edited to end prior to the experimental reveal. Video conclusions were posted here. See screenshot of portion of Padlet board below:
Step 6: Students viewed this reveal video followed by a group discussion/lecture to fill in missing gaps and relate back to previous instruction.